Movie Review - Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong
Actors and real-life couple Bryan Greenberg and Jamie Chung star as Josh Rosenberg and Ruby Lin respectively. Josh is from New York City who now lives in Hong Kong and works in finance. He's done so for 10 years, but he really wants to be a writer. Ruby is a toy designer who visits Hong Kong temporarily for her job. She's supposed to meet friends one night out, but she gets lost. Josh is outside a bar having a cigarette when he notices her and offers to be a tour guide and lead her to where she wants to go.
Ting's film structures itself after Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004). It's literally like Ting took those two movies, condensed and combined them. If you're not familiar with Linklater's iconic romance films, the structure is simple. A man and woman meet. They walk around some city and talk about various things. They eventually fall in love. The whole thing is based on the chemistry between the actors, as well as the conversation, whether or not the dialogue is well-written and its use of the location of whatever city also plays a minor role.
Out of those three factors, Ting's film seems to lean on the use of location. Josh and Ruby literally take a tour of Hong Kong. Oddly, the similarities of this foreign city to places like New York and Los Angeles are striking. The opening shot of Hong Kong could be confused for Times Square. They then hit an area with a similar name as an area in both NYC and L.A., an area called SoHo. From there, they hit more well-known places like Happy Valley, Kowloon, the Avenue of Stars, Jordan and the Cross-Harbour Tunnel. If nothing else, the movie provides a look at Hong Kong's landscape and vibrant nightlife.
Looking at the other factors, like chemistry and dialogue, Ting's film doesn't shine as much as it could. Ting's film is obviously not the first to copy Linklater's Before Sunrise. This year, after the release of this one was Southside With You, a walk-and-talk with a fictionalized version of Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson. Last year, Chris Evans directed Before We Go (2015), a Linklater knock-off set in Manhattan. Six years ago, there was Cairo Time (2010), a Linklater type set in Egypt. However, those movies don't hinder the characters with the inability to state their intentions or say what they want, which limits the chemistry and dialogue that could have been.
By the end, Josh says that this is an opportunity to reevaluate their relationships. That's kind of a no-duh. Instead of that being the denouement, I would have preferred if that reevaluation had been more in the dialogue of the second act and not just a quasi-interrogative statement two minutes before the movie ends. Without the reevaluation and answering the aforementioned question of why and really digging into these characters, the movie is just two people flirting with each other and on a superficial, half-in-half-out date.
If you want to see a similarly structured movie where a real-life couple plays a couple who randomly meets and flirts with the idea of having an affair, the better version is Where We Started (2014) by Christopher J. Hansen. There isn't a squirrel nature to Hansen's film, as opposed to Ting's. Hansen's script and its characters don't hold back or dance around the issues. They instead confront them head-on.
Ting's characters instead float through this movie, never able to confront what's clearly happening. They either can't or refuse to even recognize what's clearly happening. Again, it's not until the denouement that they even acknowledge the real situation. This floating aspect to the characters might be the point, but there's not enough weight to it and makes the movie notable only for its travelogue of Hong Kong.
Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but for general audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 18 mins.
Premiered at the 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival.
In Theaters and VOD on February 12.
Available on Netflix Watch Instant.